Shukan Shincho’s responsibility

Shukan Shincho weekly magazine, in its Feb. 5 issue, carried the first of a four-part series of accounts by a man who claimed to be responsible for a May 3, 1987, attack on the Asahi Shimbun newspaper’s Hanshin bureau in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, that killed one reporter and injured another. But it announced in its April 23 issue, published on April 16, that the accounts were not genuine. The magazine’s chief editor wrote a 10-page article to apologize and explain the process leading to the publication of the accounts.

It is clear that the magazine failed to get corroborative evidence and corroborative statements from other sources. Therefore, it is strange and regrettable that the magazine chose to paint itself as a victim, titling the article “How ‘Shukan Shincho’ was duped by the ‘false attacker.’ ”

The alleged attacker said that he assaulted the Asahi Shimbun bureau at the request of an employee at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. But his accounts included many discrepancies with the police findings. Although the weekly magazine interviewed the former U.S. Embassy employee, it could not get concrete statement that substantiated the man’s accounts. Before starting the series, the magazine contacted Asahi Shimbun and was told that the man’s statement contained many points that differed from objective facts surrounding the Hanshin bureau attack. But the magazine went ahead regardless and published the accounts.

In its Feb. 23 issue, Asahi Shimbun published an article that examined the man’s accounts and concluded that they were false. The magazine countered the article in its March 5 issue. Asahi Shimbun carried another article examining the accounts on April 1. Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine, one of Shukan Shincho’s rivals, reported in an issue published on April 9 that the man denied that he carried out the attack.

Shukan Shincho’s actions have clearly damaged the trustworthiness of journalism. Yet the chief editor refuses to establish a third-party committee for a review. This magazine, with a history going back more than 50 years, has a responsibility to establish such a committee to examine in detail what transpired.